Tech Giants and Discrimination Against Pakistan

Paypal is by far the most dominant way on the internet to carry out transactions. It’s safe, secure and protects from fraud. Not to mention that it is also universally accepted, and on many websites, it’s the only way to pay/receive money.

One would naturally assume that giants like Paypal would be offering their services in Pakistan. Surprisingly they don’t. They offer their services to around 190 countries which also include Ethiopia and Somalia.

Its not even like they haven’t expanded to this region yet, it’s available in almost all neighboring countries – and If you send them an enquiry, all you get is a preformatted letter about how they’re trying their best to expand to other countries without giving a proper reason.

It does not end here, it’s not only Paypal – even Google doesn’t operate an office here. But our neighbors India has four. Nokia is a household name here, and Pakistan generates substantial revenue for the phone giant. But it doesn’t even own a local website for our country. Bangladesh has one, but we don’t.

Its not only the examples I’ve quoted here, the trend is prevalent among many companies. But why is this so? Why don’t companies bother with having proper representation in Pakistan?

Maybe it is one of the downsides of being labeled as a terrorist country. The increasing number of bomb blasts and terrorist activities don’t exactly paint an appealing picture for the investors to start new business ventures.

We may believe that it could be deliberate act on the part of these companies but maybe they have a misconception that it simply isn’t worth to invest time and resources for Pakistan.

The conspiracy theorists amongst us might say that these companies not expanding to Pakistan is a politically motivated ploy. Internet trade is worth billions of dollars and if used correctly, it can really bring some massive money into the country – which some may don’t want to happen. And it suits some countries better if Pakistan remains debt ridden. So is it really the reason? We can only speculate.

Another possibility is that in Pakistan they don’t see an attractive option. It could be due to multiple reasons. In case of PayPal, It could be that they don’t think our banking infrastructure is stable enough; it could be that our legal structure isn’t solid enough to provide them security or maybe simply because of corruption.

Other fears might include enabling terrorist funding. Pretty much the same arguments can be made for many of the companies that don’t expand to Pakistan.

Google for instance is good to earn millions of dollars from the population of Pakistan, but they aren’t here in Pakistan – maybe to avoid any legal obligations, or to avoid taxes? (BTW I am not sure if Google is liable to pay tax if it earns money from a Pakistani business)

They don’t realize the potential. But the fact is that Pakistan is an emerging market and one of the most promising too. These companies need to get over their fears and the government should help in alleviating them.

We’re living in the internet age. Everything has a 2.0 attached to it. And whether it is that we lack the ability to deal in currency through PayPal or the absence of the most influential internet giants of this age, it needs to be looked into.

Moreover, it is also the responsibility of the media to highlight such matters of concern. It’s the media that has to play a key role (given our government is hell busy in deepening their pockets and quarreling each other), in alleviating the soft image of Pakistan.

Talal is the Editor in Chief at ProPakistani.


  • True and sad, we are using those companies but they are not trying much to reach us.

  • PsyPher

    As far as I remember, ebay and Amazon used to accept credit cards from Pakistan until they stopped doing it because of fraud cases. I am talking about late 90s and early 2000s. Since ebay owns paypal now, it is quite understandable why Pakistan isn’t part of paypal’s list of countries.

    As far as offices is concerned, it totally depends on the work being done in a particular country. And you are mistaken, there is a website for Nokia Siemens (that is how it is being operated here). It has information related to Pakistan office and all the other offices.

    And as for other companies not planning to open an office in our country, well, it’s quite obvious. Why would anyone plan to invest millions in a country when they know it might get wasted in a matter of seconds because of the bomb threat. If I’m investing millions of dollars, I would assess risk vs profit. And currently in Pakistan, risk is way way higher than the profit margin.

  • a khan

    The reason is simple. we are too over critical and have labelled ourselves as a basket case.

    India is years behind us in telecom infrastructure. we have more internet penetration and broadband penetration then india. Our social media presence is proportionately much more than india, but who is “SHINING” – them. They use their media to dance around and boast about every single minor achievement . We use our media to declare us all morally dead for a single ranger soldier’s indiscretion .

    Our media is solely to blame for image problem today.

    • MOON

      Agree with Khan

    • I remember when Nokia contacted India to sell their phones in the country and after a meeting the clear response from India was its only possible if you you based your manufacturing office based in India but what our government is doing in this regards… i don’t think they even knew how big this market is or they are seriously not interested!

      • Shahid Saleem

        If you (Nokia or someone) have a market of about 1 billion people (India) you will try harder to sell your products there, and you will accept that condition (manufacture local). Who will turn away from 1 billion possible buyers?

        Pakistan is NOW (after years and years of GSM) 100 million SIMs (not even users). No comparison, simply.

        • admin

          Just to point, India isn’t one billion market, half a billion is a good estimate though

          • Shahid Saleem

            Still a lot more than roughly 100 million here. The number of people in India who can afford Rs 25,000 or more smart phones is probably more than all subscribers in Pakistan.

            • a khan

              for that half a billion they need to cover 6 time larger distribution, more media expenses and a very nasty govt regime. You have to look at relative number. Pakistan’s cellular penetration is higher than india.

              By your logic, no company shopuld ever have presence in any eurpoean country…

              • A for Apple

                Very true Khan!

              • Shahid Saleem

                Which logic? Most Europeans have more money to spend! Therefore it makes 100% sense to target them first. Also many European countries are very very dense.

                I am not so sure about government regime matters. Even with all the disadvantages the government and regulators put in front of companies, they cant turn away from the large market.

                • God save us from @Shahid Saleem he is always posting opposite to the things here, for example on porn blocking post he said porns must not be blocked

                  • Shahid Saleem

                    There is no way to block porn without either watching your traffic or making internet experience worse. There is also no technology to automatically identify porn.

                    Best you can do is block a few major sites but then people will just use something else.

                    • Umer

                      Porn can’t be blocked – I Agree. but the reason you gave is not so.
                      Porn can be blocked if the government wants; the technology is there but the motive is not, for doing something like that. i am a software engineer and have enough knowledge of currently available technologies to tell you that.

                      Let me give you an example: surely you must have heard of face recognition right, if an algorithm can be written to detect the complex features of a human face then i think it should be easier to recognize the simple geometry of ones private parts. and any image can be blocked based on that.

                      Another way to block any obscen imagery or websites can be using their own metadata or tags simply, every website has tags that allow the search engines find them and show them according to your search terms

                      My point is that porn can be blocked if the authorities want to. this is what parantal-control is right???

                      The reason why they don’t block porn is because stopping anyone from watching something he wants to is against the rules of any democracy or even humanity. if someone wants to watch porn then he has every right to. he knows he is committing a sin he knows all the consequences then no one has the right to forcefully stop him from doing what he wants to unless it is against the national law. Freedom of will is every human’s basic right.

  • Saad

    True that, But Google has employed Badar Khushnood as its country country consultant and he is pretty active in organizing workshops by Google.

    Anyway, I think its because of the security situation in Pakistan, because otherwise, IBM, Microsoft they all have offices here.

  • Ahmed

    “In case of PayPal, It could be that they don’t think our banking infrastructure is stable enough; it could be that our legal structure isn’t solid enough to provide them security or maybe simply because of corruption.”

    Pakistan has a better banking and legal system than Ethopia and Somalia atleast.

    Its simply Pakistan phobia which all these companies have. OMG terrorist!! OMG Got to save america!!!! we keep no Pakistan in list!!.

  • Nauman Afzal

    I tried making payment through Google checkout sometime back and each time I was charged $1 for unsuccessful transaction. This happened 6 times and I gave up. Then I tried Alertpay and it worked just fine. Also Moneybookers is a good option for Pakistan.

  • KA

    Tell you what? you need to see it from other perspective.
    You need to think – what are the reasons stopping them to invest in Pakistan?

    Now you try to think about them.

    Let me explain my Perspective *with references*

    ** Take the Nokia’s one?
    – Finland and Pakistan have been in the state of starting an investment relationship back in 2004 – http://archives.dawn.com/2004/07/08/ebr8.htm
    (failed to proceed on) – Why?
    don’t tell me that it was false news. It surely was true – and the Nokia Manufacturing Plant was planned to be set up at Multan Road near Honda Car Factory. which was later avoided due to PK Government Overloaded Crappy Policies.

    ** Most importantly the Pay Pal?
    – Call them in their working hours on their US support numbers.
    I did. They have told that the infrastructure and the country policies currently do not allow PayPal offer their services in Pakistan but they have not stopped considering about it.

    ** You didn’t mention – Remember your own post about 3G licensing in Pakistan?
    – Read it again – https://propakistani.pk/2010/06/10/3g-looks-a-distant-idea-another-seminar-concluded/
    Also read the comments by CEO Telenor – http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=20082\19\story_19-2-2008_pg5_9

    Now It’s only Govt who need to make all of these facilities available here.

    • admin

      relying on government would be a bad idea – though, don’t we know of it’s capabilities? How about private sector come forward and take the image and infrastructure building task…

      I agree that many cases will require official go-ahead, but there’s a lot we can do without government

      • KA

        It was not about relying on Govt. It was to mention that Govt has bad policies which can not allow investors to invest.

        If I would be a businessman, I won’t like to have bad losses. I’ll also need profit to serve the nation.

        Hope it makes a bit sense now.

        • Rameez Kakakhel

          I remember asking DG FIA in a conference about why PayPal/eBay is not in Pakistan.. He said the banks aren’t ready for eBanking/Transactions. When I raised my hand again to point that I have a PrePaid Visa Debt Card than I can use online, I was stopped (not allowed to) for whatever reason I don’t know :p
          .
          .
          What I believe is that there are no Laws in Pakistan regarding Cybercrime and that is the biggest reason these companies are not coming here. Any fraud committed in Pakistan using these services will go unpunished.

          • Shehzad

            It also may be correct that banks are not ready as I’m UBL user which is a leading bank but their ebanking is quite problem full

            But sometimes it returns good like in last days one of the credit transaction to my a/c got two times automatically & got double balance :p

            But what If I was doing a debit & that happened two times auto instead of one time lolz will have bad times then,

            • Rameez Kakakhel

              Lolz!
              heard that for the first time… The only time I lost track with UBL Wiz was of I guess some Rs. 200… I considered them as bank charges and ignored, rest no luck with double credit so far :p
              .
              Now a happy user of Standard Chartered there is a problem with their online banking system and it’s ‘the password security’, won’t leak what it is but their password policy is weak. Feels like designed in the 2002 or something.

              • Shahid Saleem

                They already support 2 factor for some things (money transfer etc). They could offer 2 factor for login (type in passwd + message you get in SMS to login).

  • Hedgefundbaby

    Discrimination? Author of the article, are you seriously kidding me?

    Dude, the managers of these companies are scared of coming to, and staying in Pakistani cities. Hell, I’m scared!

    Next thing one’s going to say, these tech giants came to Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad but are discriminating against South Waziristan.

    Also I read somewhere that Google has donated some money to social causes. I think we should give these tech giants benefit of the doubt and fix our own internal security situation first before saying that they discriminate against us.

    p.s. I am NOT an American agent. I am a peace loving Pakistani, unfortunately though these days peace seems like a distant dream for us.

  • KA

    last URL is
    CEO Telenor [http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=20082\19\story_19-2-2008_pg5_9]

    • admin

      Please use bit.ly – daily times is #Fail when it comes to it’s urls

      • KA

        thanks :)

  • Muhammad Anees Ur Rahman

    I think that Badar Khushnood can better answer that why Google is not opening his Office.

    • admin

      He can’t speak to media, that’s what he told me once

    • Shahid Saleem

      Whenever I hear about such things (why Google has no office? Why Yahoo has no office?) I am reminded of the case where the CEO of ebay india was arrested for something he totally did not do: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/21/technology/21ebay.html

      Now, ask yourself. Who in Google wants to be arrested in Pakistan for some blog post on blogger.com?

      • admin

        Why would these companies do business in places like Pakistan or say India, where they can get arrested for doing a blog post???

        • Shahid Saleem

          Our cybercrime laws (or proposed laws) are so bad it is like no one cares about innocent people or collecting proofs first before arresting. How many non bailable offences in current draft???

          http://tribune.com.pk/story/148221/fighting-cyber-crimes/

          • admin

            No, my question was – why would these companies do business in such places?

            • Shahid Saleem

              I think they would try to minimize risk and not be very public in what they do. Or make agreements beforehand. I know for fact that Google gives caching boxes to many large ISPs in Pakistan. Sometimes they serve videos and stuff like that from your isp. Even if Google has no “real” office here, they still have some business relationships and import hardware somehow (and do it legally).

              In fact when I got my android phone I was having trouble with the office wifi (bad router) and was watching the proxy logs. When I downloaded applications from Android marketplace, it downloaded the APK file from inside Pakistan!

              I was driving in Gulberg Lahore and went down a different side road (main road was blocked) and guess what I found…an office for Verizon! Did you know they have office here?

              • admin

                LOL – Boss, you are deviating from my point, let me ask you the same question for the third time:

                Why would a company (Google, paypal for instance) would like to do business in a law-less region?

                • Shahid Saleem

                  They would do it if they could make money. Simple as that. If the rewards outwegh risks, they will do it.

                  The example of Somalia for Paypal is weak because Paypal very strongly limits what people in Somalia can do on their system.

                  • admin

                    Arite, if a business can earn money from a community, but can’t live with it – that’s a shame

  • Aslam Khan

    +1 KIA

  • Qasim

    Just Trust on God and pray for Batter future of our Country

  • Mansoor

    Instead of complaining we should try to innovate our own solutions. Take inspiration from Baidu in China.

    • A for Apple

      +10 Mansoor!

      • Shahid Saleem

        Biggest problem with any online business here is…payments. Few people have credit card, even people with Visa Debit card most cannot make online transactions or have to pay Rs 100 fee/transaction. And even if they can make transactions you cant get merchant account.

        So try easy paisa. More people can theoretically use easy paisa than credit card. But easy paisa has no backend API for automatic notification to your website of a sale or something. You have to get a SIM for a phone and then handle SMS messages manually. Hope you never run out of battery or lose charger!

        Okay, you buy one of those GPRS modems and put SIM in it and connect to your server to read easy paisa SMS messages and update website automatically? Good idea! Except now you need a generator to keep your server up 24/7 and also multiple internet connections. Cost cost cost.

  • Sami Khan

    BAN BS COMPANIES LIKE NOKIA, GOOGLE ETC

  • Zulfiqar Ali

    It all depends on the local partners, who only think of their profit no for the longterm planning, as some one mentioned that if Nokia tried to establish in India they first asked for the local office and this is the way all over except our country our local businessmen are only concerned for the share they get not for the sake of the country’s name and reputation , if we give millions of dollar to the companies, why we dont ask them to establish their local office, they will do if you convince them about their market share.

  • Qazzafi

    It’s just a matter of our so called top leaders who never wants! Pakistan be able to remain black listed

    I felt some time its global agenda that do not bring the tech or investment in Pakistan.

    And its our leadership who is making possible for this!

    Here is another top story Yamaha has pulling back the bike plant investment!

    “Yamaha Japan may scrap plans for plant in Karachi” – http://bit.ly/muJomy

  • The rules followed and implemented in Pakistan are throughly ridiculous the nation is depriving for hunger of food and basic life necessities. We are very much far way in Internet Market due to poor Government concerns i wish to see next Pakistan Govt. as Technology Friendly only in that way we people can drive Pakistan to new heights where current scenarios limited us

  • Copper

    Currently even established businesses are thinking to get out, how can you invite others?
    Security is the most important reason. Power shortage is second. Solve them and nobody would like to stay away.

  • hellodrsoul

    Nokia is on life support, bleeding to death and on the verge of bankruptcy. I have no need to have their website or office here. What saddens me the most is absence of Paypal. My online life is paralyzed, as I can purchase nothing.

    • Shahid Saleem

      Even with UBL Wiz Visa card? I think it works online.

  • Ahmed

    Lets not look at Paypal and Google, many countries started with local payment solutions and then others were compelled to opt for them to pay or get paid.
    WEbMoney–Russian and still lacks many features.
    Alertpay–Canadian, Only Bank withdrawals working.
    CASH-U — High fee and probabaly originated from Middle East.

    Fraud cases are more frequent in Europe and US if someone wants to do “SELF Condemnation”.

    We need our own Payment processor, which should offer their services in Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, China initially.For this Government should be asked to lift 5000$ sending limit which is a barrier when you do business online.

    • Shahid Saleem

      Our current best local payment option is easy paisa. Have you used it?

  • We have to understand a few things here

    – It is crystal clear that Pakistani banking system is much better than some of the countries where Paypal is operating, no question on that.

    – Pakistan now has international banks (barclays etc)in Pakistan who are already serving Paypal (I am using Barclays with Paypal in UK) so again banking infrastructure is in place to help Paypal.

    – WE CAN NOT COMPARE WITH INDIA…..PLEASEEEEE stop comparing with india. Indian is a bigger economy and has a voice much stronger than Pakistan in international venues. There are not many companies who can afford to not work in India.

    – We can say many things against Govt and that will not help. It is government that has to take initiative and stand up to convince companies to come in Pakistan. Individuals can not do anything in this regard and unfortunatly not many people in govt are aware of how little things like Paypal can help Pakistan economy.

    SOLUTION IS THIS
    ……………..
    We have to ask government at every level to convince Paypal to start operating in Pakistan. The groups/representative body (like [email protected])need to make it top priority on their list to ask government through media and other channels to convince Paypal to come to Pakistan.
    Only pointing out these things will not help much.

  • Tony

    All points listed hare have some validity. In addition, there is this factor that Indian have penetrated into many IT global companies. They are very organized on one agenda to support Indian in spreading negative news and view about Pakistan. They are making full efforts, which are successful in many instances, to steer the business decision of large IT companies against Pakistan. One example of this poisonous propaganda is Yahoo news. Your readers can read how poisonous comments and blogs Indians write against Pakistan on Pakistan related Yahoo new. I have to think that cannot be Yahoo’s official policy.

    One of the solutions is for Pakistani IT and professionals to unite and support each other and support Pakistan – more by their actions and by writing about true picture of Pakistan. At least this is in our control to do. Another solution, in our control, is to treat those companies well who dare to come to Pakistan good and see to it they are not cheated.

  • Abdullah Ch

    great post +1

  • billabadmash

    I was hoping after reading so much about paypal that they will be here this year in 2nd quarter but i see nothing am i blind or its load shedding :D

  • Shehzad

    Right our government is useless they are just in run to full their pockets as india agreed with nokia that its only possible if they open offices etc here so the same must be done here & every country does the same. if this will happen more & more people of our country will get jobs. The reason is the that why jobs ratio is falling down day by day.
    Our government is always doing useless agreements, what if any foreign company works on anything in pakistan they first reserve the high ranked seats for their country people, they are looking for jobs for their public but our government don’t have any care for its public.

  • Mansoor

    I would still say home grown solutions is the way to go. Yes there are costs involved but then have a look at most of the startups in USA or other countries they start with scratch all they have is and idea and talent. Yes there are venture capitalists willing to fund their ideas this is where the organizations like [email protected] come in although they have taken some initiatives but still those are not enough. Educational institutes should be encouraging homegrown talent to innovate and take entrepreneurial endeavors instead of funding copy paste ‘research’ which have little or no value. They can rope in the private sector into this as well. Google with some pakistani individuals and [email protected] have started an entrepreneurial initiative lets see if some one can come up with solutions for local problems.

  • Rabi

    بھتا مافیا سے ڈرتے ہیں سب
    :)

    • Mansoor

      Yes we need a bhatta app for iphone & android :)

  • Caveman

    You guys make me laugh, first you want to censor it then you want to make money out of it. No Facebook was the chant a few months ago, no porn recently, yet all the riches, and glory people seek from the world wide web itchs the palms of your hands. Take a position and stick to it, that’s why people won’t do business with us, because we are psychotic !

    Sex sells, social media is how the world communicates and as far as I know Pakistan has problems with both, so why don’t we stop crying and grow up.

  • m.yasir

    I think Pakistan has become an isolated country in international community due to deteriorating law and order situation,due to corruption,declining industry and dishost and bad foreign policies of govt. and corruption of politicians…
    News papers are full of stories of corruption in Pakistan…

  • I feel fault is our own too. Why not the Pakistanis switch from Nokia to any other brand, who are willing to open their development environments in Pakistan and share the benefits with Pakistanis too.

    • m.yasir

      yup you are right…
      chinese mobiles are already gaining popularity in Pakistan….like Q-Mobile is a good choice

  • Nice Article i was thinking about this some time back, in my opinion we should have to make our own solution for this problem, private sector can play a key role in this regard. We can make our own networks for online transactions [in collaborations with our existing online banking networks] within our country and then can integrate these local networks with giants like Paypal, eBay etc for international transactions.

  • aamir

    despirately waiting for paypal so i can do some business :[

  • obaid ur Rehman

    Such a nice Post Mr Syed Talal, it is a real thought Provoking and we can pray that concerns body must start thnking about it.

  • why not our local software house build site like Paypal??

    • PayPal accepted world-wide, so there is no use of Pakistani-based PayPal service.

  • zain

    thanks to Pakistan army for all this mess. India has 17 insurgencies but their masses and cities are unaffected and our forces cant handle a single one. result is we and Afghanistan and Iraq are counted the same even they are rated better in some aspects

  • There are some business, which can be done without these Paypal, Freelance too.

  • Great Analysis for this subject. The time demands to launch a campaign for getting facilitate by PayPal. I have been searching the same group to start a struggle for this and I’m glad to find this forum. I’ll Obviously visit again and see the improvement.